THE ELUSIVE INDIAN
*HAVE you ever met an. Indian ? *
The question was startling. What did the man mean ? Met an
Indian ? I had been in the country for nearly a year, and had
travelled thousands of miles; from the snows of the North-West
Frontier to the lush fringes of Travancore, from the hills of
Hyderabad to the markets of Madras, from the flesh-pots of
Bombay to the famine-bowls of Calcutta. At last I had come up
here to rest in the shadow of the Himalayas.
And now to be asked a question like that!
'Well, have your
*I don't understand. Is there a catch somewhere ?*
* Maybe.3 He rose to his feet. Tve got to go down to the
hospital to see a coolie with snake-bite. I'll be back in half an
hour. Then we'll have a chofa peg, and you can tell me your
I stared out over the valley. Thirty miles away the white robes
of Kinchinjunga were spread against a sky of immaculate blue;
they looked like a sort of celestial laundry waiting to be gathered
into gigantic baskets by industrious angels. The angels would
have to hurry up, for the sun was falling swiftly; already the
divine draperies were being stained with gold and crimson and
that strange acid green that is the secret of the Indian, twilight.
Nearer home, the mountains swooped down with a rhetorical
gesture to a river of dancing silver; although it was so far below,
its music echoed faintly up the hillside. Between us and the
river there was nothing but tea; tens of thousands of acres of tea,
endless regiments and division of tea, trim little bushes, marching
up to the very shadow of the jungle. If one wanted to make a cup
of tea out of Lake Ontario there would surely be enough here to
do it. The very air had a five o'clock tang; Doctor Johnson would
have been in a perpetual ecstasy.
' Have you ever met an Indian ?*